RAWALPINDI, Jul 10: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General, Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Tuesday that the Pakistan Army had no role in conducting polls and troops would be deployed only to support Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold elections in a free, fair and transparent manner.
“That means political activities of all parties should take place without any fear and voters should exercise their right to vote without any fear,” he said while addressing a press conference here at the ISPR head office.
He said Pakistan Army would only support the ECP in the tasks for which it had sought help. “We are in a support role. This is not for the first time that the Pakistan Army will do that. The troops had rendered services in the past elections too.”
He said that the ECP had entrusted the Pakistan Army with six tasks, including maintenance of overall security in the country on the election day, provision of security to the printing presses, transportation of the balloting material a day before the election day, transportation of material from returning officers’ offices to the polling stations and security of polling staff on the polling day.
The ECP, he said, had issued a code of conduct for the military during the elections and it was bound to follow that while executing its duties. He said maintaining peace and security in the country was the top priority of Pakistan armed forces. “We will be carrying out our duties in a non-political and impartial way.”
He said democracy was not restricted to the election day only. “What you sow is what you will reap in the end. Pakistan Army has no benefit in that.”
The DG ISPR said that Pakistan was heading towards the general election for the third consecutive time, which showed the continuity of the democratic process.
He said around 371,000 Pakistan armed forces personnel would be deployed on the election day. He said out of 85,307 polling stations, some 20,831 had been declared sensitive.
He said that over 134,800 reservists, who had retired from the army within the past five years as well as around 4000 Pakistan Navy and Air Force personnel would also perform duty on the election day. He said that the reservists would not be deployed at the polling stations but would perform the routine duties at the place of serving troops, who would be deployed on the election day.
He said that on the election day, troops would be deployed both inside and outside the polling stations. He said two security officials would perform duty inside the polling station at the each sensitive polling station, while two would remain present outside. He said deployment would be lower at non-sensitive polling stations.
The DG ISPR said that three printing presses – two in Islamabad and one in Karachi – were printing ballot papers and Pakistan Army’s troops were deployed there a week prior to printing of the ballot papers to ensure security.
“We will not take over printed material, the ECP staff will be handling that. We will only have to transport the same to polling stations in a secure manner a day before the election day,” he added.
He said that most of the transportation of ballot papers would be done via road, but if needed, helicopters and aircraft would also be used for the purpose. “But all that transportation will be done in the presence of the ECP staff.”
To a question, he said that that the troops deployed at printing presses would remain there till the completion of election process to ensure that no ballot paper was printed afterward.
He said that an army election support centre, headed by a three-star general had been established in Rawalpindi to coordinate and communicate with the ECP. He said that the ECP had introduced a system through which pictures of forms would be taken and transmitted to returning officers to ensure that when the votes were counted they were neither less nor more.
Major General Asif Ghafoor asked the media not to question the troops deployed at the polling stations on the election day. He also requested the general public not to engage troops on duty, as the best way to express love with them was not to create any interruption for them.
“We do not have any political party and are doing our duty only for the country,” he said.
The DG ISPR also urged the people to come out in large number on the election day for using their right to vote. “No matter whom you support, come out and vote for them. Use of your voting right in large number will ensure fair elections,” he said.
To a question regarding candidates being 'forced' to change their loyalties, the DG ISPR questioned, “Has there ever been an election in which candidates have not switched over their parties?”
He said that the environment in which 2013 general election took place was more difficult. “The situation was different at that time” as terrorists were threatening the politicians not to carry out campaigns.
To a question about the allotment of ‘Jeep’ symbol to certain independent candidates, he said that it was the ECP which allotted symbols to them.
To another question about a PML-N candidate from Multan, who earlier accused a security agency of pressurizing him, but later backtracked saying that it was actually the Agriculture Department which did that, the DG ISPR said the candidate was under investigation of the Agriculture Department for around two years for alleged misdoings.
To another query about cyber threats coming from some other countries to influence electoral results, he
said that Pakistan Army had a strong cyber monitoring system to counter such threats.
To a question regarding political engineering he asked, “Around 106 million people would vote and is it possible for us to go to every citizen and tell him who to vote for?”
He said the armed forces had a credibility and they could not pass a wrong order to a soldier.
Regarding the participation of banned outfits in the elections, he said, “The ECP has a process of registering political parties and anyone having some sort of objections can approach it.”
Replying to a question, he said that the ISI's chief had played an important role in combating terrorism and his detractors did not understand the scope of his post.
About social media misuse he said, “We do not want to control social media. If someone will be doing anti-state things then FIA has a system to check that.”
To a question about ‘Khalai Makhlook (extraterrestrial beings)”, he said, “We (Pakistan Army) are not political. We are Makhooq of Allah.”
Responding to a question that whether the Pakistan Army would accept Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan as prime minister, he said whoever was elected by the people, whether it was Mr. A,B or C, would be the prime minister for the army and the nation.
Later, talking about the Pakistan Army decision to donate for the fund established by the Supreme Court for the construction of dams in the country, he said, the army chief would donate a month's pay, while other general officers would contribute two days salary, instead of the earlier one day pledge.
Earlier, a video was shown to the journalists regarding training of troops for performance of duty on the polling day.